For the loved ones of a nursing home patient, it truly is one of your worst nightmares – finding out that your loved one has been abused while at the facility. That is precisely what one Arizona family is going through. According to news reports that have made national headlines recently a 29-year-old comatose nursing home patient gave birth to a baby boy last December. Not only does the child’s birth make it clear that the patient was sexually abused, but it also raises questions about how no one recognized that she was pregnant.
How Did This Happen?
The woman, who had been in a vegetative state for 14 years after a near drowning, gave birth to a baby boy on December 29, 2018. For most everyone, the question is “How did this happen?” Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department said it appears medical professionals at the facility, Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix, did not learn of her pregnancy until she went into labor. “I think it took everyone by surprise,” Thompson said, adding, “It’s my impression that the staff there had no clue that this lady was having a baby. That she was even pregnant.” When asked if the staff knew about the pregnancy, Thompson responded “I’m not in a position to say, ‘How could someone not [know]?’” He added, “Certainly that’s a question that people could ask is, ‘How can a woman carry a baby to pretty much a full-term baby and not realize that she’s pregnant?’ When asked how they did figure out she was in labor, a source close to the investigation responded “From what I’ve been told she was moaning. And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”
Thompson was asked at the press conference whether police are investigating a possible coverup. He replied, “Right now, we’re investigating a sexual assault,” but he added that “wherever this investigation takes us, we’re prepared to go forward with it.” Thompson said police believe the mother was sexually assaulted at least once, referring to the incident that conceived the child. Police are seeking DNA samples from all male staffers at the facility in a push to identify the father of the baby boy, according to a statement from Hacienda Healthcare. Thompson has not revealed who they’ve obtained DNA from, but said, “suffice it to say it’s a large number of individuals.”
The mother was identified Tuesday by San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler as a member of the tribe, which confirmed in a statement that she “has been in a persistent vegetative state and coma for over a decade.” The family’s attorney says the the woman’s relatives are “outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda Healthcare,” adding, “The family is well aware of the intense news and public interest in their daughter’s case, but at this time is not emotionally ready to make a public statement.”
Following news of the birth, Bill Timmons, the longtime chief executive officer of Hacienda Healthcare, resigned. In 2017, the facility was cited by the state for failing to protect residents’ privacy while they were naked in the shower, according to records from the state Department of Health and Human Services. After being assured by administrators that staffers “have been counseled on privacy during showering residents,” the state issued a follow-up report in January 2018 which concluded those and other deficiencies uncovered by investigators “have been corrected.”
Could This Happen to Your Loved One?
Sexual abuse in a nursing home is something that is not discussed often – but it should be. While the victim in the Arizona case was fairly young, that doesn’t mean that your elderly loved one is immune from becoming a victim of sexual assault in a long-term care facility. In fact, according to an in-depth report by CNN, more than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported since 2000 in long-term care facilities (which include both nursing homes and assisted living facilities), according to federal data housed by the Administration for Community Living. Even worse is the fact that the actual number is likely much higher given that only cases that were reported to the state’s long-term care ombudsman were counted. If you are concerned about an elder loved one in a nursing home, contact an elder law attorney right away to discuss your legal options.
Contact Oklahoma City Elder Law Lawyers
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding potential nursing home abuse, contact the experienced Oklahoma City elder law lawyers at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.